Jusuf Nurkic

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Northwest Rumors: Butler, Porter, Thunder, Aminu

The Nets, Knicks, Nuggets, Sixers and Lakers are potential landing spots for Jimmy Butler if the Timberwolves decide to trade him before he hits free agency next summer, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. Butler is reportedly meeting with Minnesota’s brass on Monday to discuss his future with the organization. The Nets could offer a package featuring the Nuggets’ top-12 protected 2019 first-round pick, as well as defensive-minded wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, while Denver could make either Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. the centerpiece in a deal for the All-Star wing, Urbina adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Porter is trying to return to full strength after two back surgeries and there’s no guarantee he’ll play this season, Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website writes in a player profile. The Nuggets will keep him on the sidelines until they’re convinced the rookie forward won’t have any setbacks. There’s no timetable on when he will be ready to make his debut, Dempsey adds.
  • Defense will be the Thunder’s biggest strengths this season, according to Basketball Insiders’ season preview of the team. The return of Andre Roberson from his knee injury and the subtraction of Carmelo Anthony give the Thunder five above-average-to-elite defenders in their lineup. Oklahoma City’s biggest issue is closing out games but without the chemistry issues caused by trying to fit Anthony in with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, its performances in the clutch should also improve this season.
  • Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jusuf Nurkic have returned to Portland after competing in regional FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, according to Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. Aminu helped Nigeria go 3-0 during the tournament but Bosnia and Herzegovina went winless in two games despite the efforts of Nurkic.
  • Shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom has remained in Minnesota to work out following his recent tryout with the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. He could still be added to the training camp roster, Wolfson adds.

Contract Details: CP3, MCW, Nurkic, Anderson

The Rockets‘ four-year max deal for Chris Paul includes a player option in year four, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). While that added detail on CP3’s new agreement with Houston is interesting, the possibility of an opt-out probably won’t be a factor in 2021 when a decision is due. Paul will be 36 years old when he has to decide on that $44MM+ option, so he seems unlikely to turn it down.

Pincus has several more specific details on recently-signed contracts, so let’s round them up…

  • Michael Carter-Williams‘ one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets isn’t fully guaranteed. The deal, worth $1,757,429 in total, has a $1.2MM partial guarantee for now (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ agreement with Jusuf Nurkic can be worth up to $54MM, but has a base value of $48MM, with $6MM in unlikely incentives. The fourth and final year is also currently only partially guaranteed for $4MM (Twitter link).
  • Kyle Anderson‘s new four-year contract with the Grizzlies features a 15% trade kicker (Twitter link).
  • Bruce Brown (Pistons) and Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) got three-year, minimum-salary deals with two guaranteed seasons from their respective teams (Twitter link).
  • Of the two-way contracts signed so far this offseason, Billy Preston‘s deal with the Cavaliers is the only one confirmed to be for two years rather than just one (Twitter link).

Blazers Re-Sign Jusuf Nurkic To Four-Year Deal

JULY 7, 12:20pm: Per Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post, Nurkic’s partial guarantee in the final season of his new contract – 2021/22 – is for $4MM.

JULY 7, 7:23am: The Trail Blazers have officially re-signed Nurkic, the club early on Saturday morning in a press release.

JULY 6: Restricted free agent center Jusuf Nurkic has agreed to a four-year, $48MM contract to remain with the Trail Blazers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The deal includes a partial guarantee in the fourth season, Wojnarowski adds. The contract could be worth up to $53MM, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

The 7-foot Nurkic, who turns 24 in August, posted averages of 14.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 1.4 BPG last season. Nurkic started all 79 games in which he played.

Nurkic could have signed for more money a few months ago, according to Wojnarowski’s follow-up story, but turned down that offer. With the market shrinking, Nurkic decided to take the Blazers’ revised offer.

Nurkic’s career took off when the Nuggets traded him to Portland during the 2016/17 season. He was one of the top big men available on the free agent market this summer, coming in at No. 16 overall on our list of 2018’s top 50 free agents.

With Nurkic back under contract, the Blazers have now made three signings this week, adding Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry to the mix as well. Those new deals project to take Portland over the tax line, though there’s still plenty of time for the team to dip back below it — last year, for instance, the Blazers went well over that threshold before moving Allen Crabbe and Noah Vonleh to avoid becoming a taxpayer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DeMarcus Cousins Leftovers: Blazers, Celtics, Warriors’ Recruitment

Before DeMarcus Cousins agreed to join the defending-champion Warriors on a one-year, $5.3MM contract, the Trail Blazers and Pelicans discussed the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal that would have sent the star center to Portland, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, according to Haynes, the fact that Cousins and Jusuf Nurkic share the same agent was one roadblock in those talks.

Even if not for that issue, it would have been tricky for the Pelicans and Blazers to reach a deal that worked for both sides. Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade would have hard-capped the Blazers, who were already well over the cap, so they likely would have had to send at least one or two players to New Orleans. It’s not clear if talks progressed to the point where the two sides were discussing specific players.

Here’s more on the free agency decision that has practically made LeBron James‘ move to Los Angeles an afterthought tonight:

  • Cousins had narrowed down his choices to Golden State and Boston before opting for the Warriors, according to Haynes (Twitter link). The Celtics could have comfortably matched Golden State’s offer and would have been a fascinating destination for Cousins — with LeBron out of the East, the C’s already look like a favorite to represent the conference in the Finals in 2019, so the team’s status as the frontrunner would have been cemented with Cousins in the mix.
  • Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports takes a look at the Warriors‘ recruitment of Cousins, which was led by his USA Basketball teammates Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, along with GM Bob Myers. Cousins also had “positive phone calls” with head coach Steve Kerr, league sources tell Charania.
  • The Warriors were initially reluctant to believe in Cousins’ interest, according to Charania, who adds that the big man also received interest from the Pelicans, Mavericks, and Wizards. Golden State’s agreement with Cousins came together so quickly that some members of the organization were “stunned” when word of the deal broke, tweets ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
  • Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter links), Cousins called his decision to join the Warriors the “smartest move ever,” and said he’s still hoping to return from his Achilles injury for training camp. Reports tonight suggested the Dubs may be eyeing a December or January return to action for their latest acquisition.
  • Cousins also told Spears that he received no significant contract offers when free agency began, but was prepared for that possibility due to his Achilles injury (Twitter link).
  • While it’s not impossible that Cousins could end up hurting the Warriors more than he helps, the addition – combined with the Rockets’ loss of Trevor Ariza – appears to have further widened the gap between Golden State and the rest of the NBA, writes Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com in his breakdown of the deal.

Lowe’s Latest: James, Thunder, RFAs

The Lakers may not necessarily need a star in place to lure LeBron James, Zach Lowe of ESPN writes in a massive round-up of free agency notes. If James were to sign in Los Angeles alongside the team’s existing young stars and plethora of cap space they’d immediately become one of the league’s most appealing destinations for the next 12 months.

The comment comes in response to the notion that the Lakers are growing desperate to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs prior to James’ opt-in deadline tomorrow at 10:59pm CST. As things stand, both the Celtics and Sixers appear poised to offer better packages than what Lowe speculates L.A. might.

The King’s decision will have a ripple effect on the rest of the league, especially the Eastern Conference. If the Raptors, for example, were to watch James head to the West, it would make keeping their current core in place more appealing considering that their path to the Finals would be hypothetically easier.

Here’s a taste of the rest of Lowe’s findings:

  • If the Thunder can convince Paul George to return to Oklahoma City, it will be a monumental victory for general manager Sam Presti. If he leaves, the club would be forced to at least think about blowing the current squad up and trading Russell Westbrook.
  • Only six teams have notable amounts of potential cap space and half of those – the Hawks, Bulls and Kings – are telling teams that they’re interested in using that space to absorb bad contracts and pick up assets.
  • It’s unclear that there will be much of a market for Derrick Favors beyond, potentially the Mavs. It may make more sense for the big man to stay with the Jazz after finally starting to click alongside Rudy Gobert in Quin Snyder‘s offense last season.
  • The two best candidates to sign a qualifying offer this summer and approach next summer as unrestricted free agents are Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic. Lowe writes that Nurkic turned down a “rich” four-year extension last fall but might have a hard time finding a team willing to offer more than the mid-level exception this summer.
  • It stands to reason that Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker will yield significant offers from the Magic, Bulls and Bucks  respectively but none of those teams have reason to offer a max contract right away.
  • The Pacers could make life harder for the Magic by putting together an offer in the $20MM range for Gordon. Lowe writes that there has been “mild discontent for years” about Gordon’s role in Orlando’s offense.
  • The Nuggets tried “feverishly” to trade for a second first-round pick last Thursday in the hopes of nabbing Zhaire Smith. Denver’s 2019 first-rounder was on the table in those talks.

For more free agency notes, including some potential contract extension candidates and the reasoning behind Nikola Jokic not getting a player option in the fifth year of his new deal with the Nuggets, check out the full feature at ESPN.

Blazers Tender Qualifying Offer To Jusuf Nurkic

The Trail Blazers have issued a qualifying offer to Jusuf Nurkic, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The offer ensures that Nurkic will be a restricted free agent when the new league year begins this weekend.

Nurkic, acquired by Portland before the 2017 trade deadline, started 79 games for the Blazers in 2017/18, averaging 14.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 26.4 minutes per contest. While Nurkic was somewhat inconsistent and wasn’t necessarily a game-changing force in the middle for the Blazers, he provided solid production at the five and is still entering his prime — he’ll turn 24 in August.

While the Blazers have indicated they’d like to retain Nurkic, it may be challenging for the club to match a lucrative offer sheet for the young center. Portland already has $110MM+ in guaranteed money on its 2018/19 cap for just eight players, so a big raise for Nurkic figures to put the club over the tax line with several roster spots still to fill.

Because he met the starter criteria in 2017/18, Nurkic’s qualifying offer is worth $4,749,591. The Blazers will also have to make decisions on QOs for Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton, who are both eligible for restricted free agency.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Nurkic, Katsikaris

There is no chance that the Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes, despite the fact that there’s room for the relationship between he and the front office to improve.

Although that bond is far from irreparable, it pales between that of Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau and All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler. Butler, of course, played for Thibodeau as a member of the Bulls and the two share similarly passionate approaches to basketball.

With the 2018/19 season on the horizon, however, Thibodeau will need to find a way to bridge the gap between himself and players on the Timberwolves’ roster that weren’t exposed to him in Chicago, a problem that Krawczynski writes traces back to a lack of communication.

There’s more out of the Northwest this afternoon:

  • The Thunder are hoping to hit big with their two late draft picks, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes, noting that the fact that they’ll fall so late in the draft (No. 53 and No. 57) means they’ll come with less of a financial burden and less pressure to pan out.
  • The Trail Blazers need not rush out and blow up their roster, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes, suggesting that the team shouldn’t be punished for overachieving last season and ultimately getting overpowered in the postseason. Marks also adds that Portland fans can expect a long drawn-out restricted free agency process for Jusuf Nurkic, unless he decides to sign his $4.8MM qualifying offer.
  • The Jazz are “in discussion” to hire Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris to serve as an assistant under Quin Snyder, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. If hired, Katsikaris would fill the void left by Igor Kokoskov. It had been previously reported that Katsikaris had already been hired to a contract but those reports, Woodyard tweets, were premature.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Nurkic, O’Neale

While making a decision on Nikola Jokic‘s team option – and possible subsequent free agency – will be the Nuggets‘ top priority this offseason, the club will face several challenges in the coming weeks and months, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN.com (Insider link).

As Marks outlines, one of those challenges will be finding a way to bring back Will Barton next season, since it looks on paper like the Nuggets won’t be able to afford him. Still, with Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur all expected to be on expiring contracts in 2018/19, Denver shouldn’t worry too much about going over the tax line, according to Marks, who points out that the team should be able to cut costs when those veteran contracts expire in the summer of 2019. That would mean avoiding multiple years in tax territory.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Six prospects participated in the Nuggets‘ latest pre-draft group workout, according to Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com, who provides the list (via Twitter): Tyler Cook (Iowa), Jon Elmore (Marshall), Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Mustapha Heron (Auburn), Charles Matthews (Michigan), and Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s).
  • Frank Urbina of HoopsHype examines four potential landing spots for restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic, identifying the Mavericks, Hawks, Wizards as possible suitors. However, Urbina writes that a return to the Trail Blazers is the most likely outcome for Nurkic.
  • Dakari Johnson didn’t play a whole lot in his rookie season, but he’s still just 22 years old and may still have a place in the Thunder‘s long-term plans, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.
  • After spending the 2017/18 season with the Jazz as an undrafted free agent, Royce O’Neale called his rookie year a “dream come true,” as Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News details. While O’Neale wasn’t a lock to stick with Utah for multiple years coming into the season, his $1.38MM non-guaranteed salary for 2018/19 looks like a bargain now, McDonald observes.

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, George, Jazz, Bryant

The Trail Blazers should resist the temptation to spend big on free agent center Jusuf Nurkic, writes Dan Favale of Bleacher Report. Portland is already in a dicey cap situation with more than $110MM committed for next season and little relief coming until the summer of 2020.

Favale’s advice is to re-sign free agent Ed Davis, who earned $6.35MM this season and should have a much smaller price tag than Nurkic. He adds that the Blazers can form an effective center combination with Davis and rookie Zach Collins without plunging themselves into luxury tax territory.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Paul George got nearly all A’s in his first season with the Thunder from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. George received high marks for deportment, stamina, defense and 3-point shooting, but only a D in ball security and a C for his performance in the playoffs. George was outstanding against the Jazz in Games 1 and 5, but shot a disastrous 2-of-16 with six turnovers as OKC was eliminated in Game 6.
  • The Jazz will be looking for another scorer this summer to complement Donovan Mitchell, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah could have $17MM to spend, depending on what it does with free agent Derrick Favors and the non-guaranteed contracts of Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko.
  • Elijah Bryant of Brigham Young, who worked out for the Jazz today, is trying to prove he can carve out a place in the NBA, relays Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune. The Cougars’ leading scorer last season, Bryant is considered a long shot to be drafted but left school a year early because he wants to get started on a pro career at age 23. The first step is matching up with higher-regarded prospects at workouts. “So you come into a situation like that and you’re used to being the main guy on the team, but now everyone’s playing well, right?” Bryant said. “So I think being assertive and being able to communicate on this level is a different thing than being at BYU. Being able to show you’re in shape and show you can hit shots when you’re tired. Those are things that I’ve been able to show throughout this process.”